Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 16:13 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 16:13 | SYDNEY

Middle East in 2010 (part 2)


Rodger Shanahan


14 January 2010 14:52

Part one here. 

Ahh, the Middle East peace process. I really do think I'm on firm ground here when I predict that the MEPP will look the same at the end of 2010 as it did at the start — going nowhere. The reasons are pretty well summed up in some exchanges from last year.
In May 2009 Secretary of State Clinton issued a very public demand to the Israeli Government that there must be no exceptions to President Obama's call for Israel to stop its settlement activity as a precondition for peace talks with the Palestinians: 'Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions. We think it is in the best interest of the effort that we are engaged in that settlement expansion cease.'
This hard-line approach was followed up very quickly when, in June 2009, President Obama said in his Cairo speech that 'Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.'
Israel's response? In November, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared a ten-month settlement 'freeze' which on the face of it sounded like he was agreeing to Washington's demands (albeit with a limited timeframe). Then you read the small print: it doesn't apply to Arab-majority East Jerusalem, and in the West Bank the freeze applies only to new homes. The construction of public buildings in settlements is not subject to the freeze, neither does it apply to houses already approved (which begs the question as to how many were approved just before the announcement of the freeze) or under construction (3,000 units according to this report).  Pretty warm freeze, if you ask me.
Faced with the diplomatic equivalent of trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, Secretary of State Clinton issued a notably bland statement in response: 'Today's announcement by the Government of Israel helps move forward toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines...'
The official Palestinian response from chief negotiator Saib Erikat was a glimpse of the blinding obvious: 'Rather than a full settlement freeze, Israel is proposing a series of 'exceptions' to a full freeze that allow for continued settlement construction, especially in and around occupied East Jerusalem. There is nothing new in this announcement and no change in the status quo of settlements, occupation and Israel's daily violations of international law that remain the major obstacle to peace.'
The yawning gap between US desires and Israeli willingness to accommodate them makes it little wonder that substantive progress in the MEPP for 2010 is about as likely as Pakistan chasing down a fourth innings total of 176 on a fourth-day SCG wicket. And if you don't believe me, this good blog article summarises the current state of play more eloquently than I can.

Photo by Flickr user izahorsky, used under a Creative Commons license.